Spanish La Liga Season Review So Far
On the face of it, this La Liga season has been much like the others, with Real Madrid and Barcelona sitting in the top spots as we reach the middle of the season, and looking like they will stay there.
But don’t let that fool you. As the season reached the winter break, Spain’s two dominant football forces have performed unlike anyone would have expected at the start of the campaign, and the table looks to be taking shape unlike anyone could have predicted before a ball was kicked in the summer.
Half a Season of Stunning Upsets
The campaign so far has been punctuated by some results that no one saw coming, and could be crucial to the points tally when we reach the end of the season.
Levante dismantled Barcelona in a 3-1 victory, a result no one could have predicted – least of all Levante. Real Mallorca also managed to beat Real Madrid, causing the small island to go wild in celebration. It is results like these that have made this season so compelling, and the second half of the season so hard to predict.
Trouble at the top
The big two have had more than their share of trouble this season. Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane and then Barca head coach Ernesto Valverde both faced the axe at different points this season, with Real golden boy Zidane thought at one point to be just a couple of poor results away from the sack.
His Barcelona counterpart was not so lucky. After a run of questionable performances, Valverde left Camp Nou to be replaced by Quique Setien; a manager who was let go by Real Betis last season after a disappointing campaign. The two giant teams are in the weakest states they have been, and only Lionel Messi could add some sparkle to a lacklustre El Clasico.
This should have at last opened the door for a third team to challenge the La Liga duopoly, but we are still waiting.
The scrap for third place
With the big two underperforming, this was the best chance in a decade for another team to challenge for the top spots, and all eyes turned to Atletico Madrid.
After a summer of big spending, and with Diego Simone at the helm, many tipped Atletico to make a push for a top spot at the start of the season. Instead, Madrid’s other team seem locked in a crisis. Results just haven’t gone their way.
They had been criticised last season for playing conservative football and being too defensively focused. With investments in attackers over the summer, many pundits felt that we would see more positive play from Atletico this term. Instead, they have become directionless on the pitch, and don’t even seem able to rely on last season’s possessive and cautious style.
Atletico seem deflated this season, and they have left third place undefended.
With Getafe challenging for a Champions League place, having topped La Liga at one point this season, it is safe to say that anything can happen in the back half of the campaign.
The best of the rest
With the door left open by the big clubs, the opportunity was there for clubs used to fighting for a mid-table spot to make a step up and achieve a place in European football next season. That chance is still alive for a couple of teams, but they need to get their act together quickly and pick up some points.
Real Betis is a side that many had their eyes on in August. Some wise spending and investment, helped in part by a new front-of-shirt partnership agreement, put players like Nabil Fekir in their ranks to help boost their chances of qualifying for Europe. This could be the chance they have been waiting for to bring Europa League, or even Champion’s League football to the Estadio Benito Villamarin.